Adele Vernon was born with a gift. She is one of those remarkable people who bring joy into the lives of the rest of us. “If I have a gift for the world,” she said, “I think it might be having fun and sharing that with others.” Adele is turning 90, and if you give her a phone call, you’ll soon be smiling, maybe laughing. It’s uplifting to be around her. Even the sound of her voice lifts you up. Rabbi Harry says, “Adele embodies what the tradition calls ‘having a good eye’; she is a ‘ba’alat tov ayin’. She sees the good in others and encourages and nurtures that good.”
We asked Adele to tell her story about life with Congregation Emanu-El. She is a woman of many talents! Afterwards, some of her friends share a few stories about Adele. Happy Birthday, Dear Adele. May you continue to thrive and to scatter your beauty across this world.
Adele, in her own words, on life with Congregation Emanu-El:
Early on, I was on the periphery of the Jewish community, teaching the Hebrew school kids Israeli dancing in the St. John the Divine hall. Bernice Packford urged me to be more connected, so I started coming to shul in 1982, at first scared to be judged, yet finding enthusiastic acceptance. That same year I started producing the monthly newsletter and did that for twelve years. And for nine years, I went to the Wednesday night Hebrew information class. Rabbi Victor was my guiding light. I began the Shalom Dancers Israeli group and designed and made the costumes. We danced at Folkfest and at senior’s homes. In 1985, I was unable to dance anymore, so the troupe passed on to others. I was also involved with the group that started the Outreach Committee. We made food for those in need and visited the housebound. And I became part of the Chevra Kadisha.
At one time I was asked to host a monthly Shabbat dinner for those who lived alone. I think that lasted a couple of years. I had fun writing a column for the Koleinu once it was computerised. I took on managing the kitchen in the old building and, for a while, in the new building. The synagogue was my home away from home. I was on the Board of Directors for several years as the membership person. I used to go to the Thursday Lunch and Learn too, and when Rabbi Victor couldn’t get there, I ran the discussion.
Oh! there was my Bat Mitzvah on my 60th birthday; and I put on fundraising dances for my 75th and 80th birthdays. The wall hangings of the twelve tribes that hung in the sanctuary, I made; and then I was asked to make the matriarchs as well. This congregation has been my sustenance for as long as I was part of it, and now that I’m back in Victoria, it is again. We were running a Sage Tea group out of my house until last February. And, I just remembered! I also did synagogue tours for twenty years. That was the most fun of all!
On Adele, from her friends:
Adele Extraordinaire! In addition to her uncountable skills and multiple careers, Adele has been a surrogate parent and grandparent to many, adopting strays wherever she goes and bringing light and love into all our lives. I believe she hosted our oldest son’s first-ever sleepover, and she was always there offering support and wisdom as we navigated parenting young children. Sending blessings for joy and good health on this auspicious birthday, until 120! Love, RaeAnn
I admire Adele’s ability to shift and adjust and to maintain creativity. I am delighted that she is back with us. Reb Louis
Graham and I go back such a long way with Adele. We particularly remember the break-fasts that she had every year in her house on Chapman Street. So many of us who gathered at shul during Yom Kippur made our way there after the concluding service. What a wonderful experience it was to relax with sustaining food and drink as Adele hosted us in her lovely home. Thank you again Adele—and Happy 90th!! Jean and Graham
Adele is a renaissance woman. I remember when my boys were young they thought that there was nothing in the world that Adele had not done—and in a way they were right—from being a dancer to a baker, from photography to plumbing. Adele is one of the most generous people I have encountered in life—I cannot count how many people have stayed with Adele while they turned their lives around—often sending them off with remarkable gifts. She is a free-spirited, earth momma hippy, and she held those values and ideals way before they came into vogue 50 years ago. Adele has seen her share of life’s ups and downs, but she always maintains gratitude and joy. Adele is what the tradition calls “Having a good eye; she is a ba’alat ayin tova.” She sees the good in others and she encourages and nurtures that good. She is generous because she knows that she is enriched through giving. Happy Birthday to Adele who always makes me feel special when I am with her. Harry
It is such a pleasure getting to know Adele and hear about her adventures throughout her amazing life. Adele is a role model to emulate. In her kind, caring way, Adele has touched, encouraged, and supported the lives of many. We are delighted that Adele decided to return to Victoria and the Jewish Community which has benefited directly from all her endeavours. Happy 90th birthday ! Much ️love, Ruth
It seems there isn’t anything Adele has not done (except maybe sky diving). A mother of 3 daughters, Stephanie, and grandmother to Tavian. Adele has been a photographer, dance teacher, run a boarding house, hosted community Passover seders, run the Emanu-El kitchen, travelled the world, catered meals for hundreds, taught courses at community centres, gardened, made jams and chutneys, quilted, knit, run discussion groups, been a substitute grandmother to young teenage boys, and tutored math. Adele continues to write poetry and short stories, learn more computer skills, read voraciously, and mentor younger women. I am sure I have only scratched the surface of Adele’s skills and accomplishments in her 90 years. Adele is my inspiration. Sharon
I enclose a photograph taken at the Kiwanis Pavilion in April 1993 which shows Adele and I with a very senior gentleman. My mother’s death occurred that week just days before her planned 97th birthday party, an event I felt should not be cancelled because it would have caused such disappointment amongst her friends. I already had the cake; Adele so kindly offered to accompany me, and also to take photos.
The warmth of all those seniors and Adele at such a sad time was something I will always remember. I’m so glad I can help to celebrate a lovely lady. I wish Adele many busy years ahead and a very happy 90th! We are both from Britain and have shared a lot of laughs together over many years in Victoria. Gillian and Ralph
Adele requests no gifts. Kindly send any donations to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund at Congregation Emanu-El.